Updated Feb. 22
The West Tisbury select board unanimously approved warrant article requests from the town’s Community Preservation commission (CPC) and finance committee at its Wednesday, Feb. 16, meeting.
The CPC’s request was for an addition to the warrant article to get CPC funds to the Island Autism Group’s project to build affordable housing for adults with autism who want to stay on the Island and near their families, according to Island Autism Group president Kate DeVane. Two four-bedroom houses are planned to be built with these funds. However, the submission for the project was late.
“We put a few wrong [items] in the warrant article,” CPC member Cheryl Lowe said. “This is the first time this has ever come up in my purview being on the board here, but we weren’t fully ready to submit all of the language. So we submitted it on the due date with the caveat that we would have two weeks to fine-tune some things.”
West Tisbury select board chair Skipper Manter said there were two ways to get the warrant article before the town. One was to reopen the warrant and insert the additions, the other was to call a special town meeting.
Jennifer Rand, West Tisbury town administrator, said she thinks this was a genuine misunderstanding about the process.
West Tisbury select board member Cynthia Mitchell suggested adding the additions “to the warrant, no problem.”
Manter pointed out that they should follow the bylaws approved by the voters; this resulted in pushback from other West Tisbury officials at the meeting. Manter said he did not want to set a precedent, and other officials said these issues must be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
The board unanimously approved the edits to the CPC’s warrant article.
Meanwhile, the finance committee presented its question for the ballot. West Tisbury town accountant Bruce Stone presented the information. The committee has a line item in its warrant article for architectural improvements for Howes House, and during the meeting, it recommended a Proposition 2½ capital exclusion ballot question for an increased tax levy for one year. Stone said this would help the town meet some financial requirements. Additionally, Stone suggested using free cash to pay for onetime costs for the eight warrant articles, which is a total cost of $540,000.
The board unanimously approved the ballot question.
In other news, several appointments were made during the meeting. The board unanimously approved John Rau’s appointment to the West Tisbury planning board as an associate member. He will serve until April 2023. The board also unanimously approved designating the members of West Tisbury’s energy committee and climate committee as special municipal employees.
The board unanimously approved attorney John Cloherty as special town counsel for a lawsuit the town’s conservation commission is facing. According to West Tisbury conservation commission administrator Maria McFarland, two West Tisbury individuals were in a lawsuit because one party did work on his property that extended into the abutter’s property, leading to the abutter suing the offender. The abutter also notified the commission about this. The commission sent an enforcement order to the violating individual, who in turn sued the conservation commission. Usually, town counsel Ron Rappaport would handle the situation, but his partner acted as the attorney for one of the individuals in the ’90s. Rappaport suggested the town hire another attorney to keep conflict of interest suspicions away.
Meghan Gombos, a consultant to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, came before the board to gain feedback on the commission’s climate action plan. Gombos said the plan was at a stage at which feedback was needed, and she asked for the support of Rand to set up a workshop for the town on a date between March 21 and April 2. The board gave consensus to support this effort, but a vote was needed.
The board decided to wait on a decision about the Steamship Authority (SSA) legislation until there is more information. Manter was displeased by how the Islanders were not notified about this legislation. Although the towns usually don’t vote on SSA decisions, he said amendments to the legislation should come with the Island communities’ feedback, and not with “behind-the-scenes activity.” The legislation requires the SSA to hire a chief operating officer and to have term limits on the board members. “If our legislatures, the representative and senator, are concerned about term limits, perhaps they should start with the Senate and the House of Representatives if they think that’s a good idea,” Manter said.
Updated with corrected information about West Tisbury town accountant Bruce Stone’s presentation.